Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Goodnight and God bless

Dear Anita,

I want to start by asking, if you ever had or have a plan to start a book store or may be a Cafe, which has a book store too, for the patrons to indulge in both kinds of cravings. If the idea had ever crossed your mind then I think you and my wife, let’s call her T, have a lot in common, not limiting to the love for books and food.

It was by chance that I got hold off your book – ‘Goodnight and God bless’ or may be my wife had a role in it too. She packed a bunch of books for me to carry from her hostel in Chennai to our home in Bangalore. Generally, I would just pick the bundle and pack it in the bag. But this time, while I was arranging each book in my bag, she asked what I was having for the journey and I said Agatha Christie. She took your book from the bundle and said this might be a good read, its small and you’ll finish it in the journey itself. I liked the cover of the book, and I too do that very often, how you have mentioned in the book that some random books with good covers do end up as good reads.

By the time Lalbagh Express reached Bangarapet station I had this balmy feeling inside me, as if I was holding a kangir inside the a/c coach. I gave her a call and asked why she gave me this book. She asked if I liked it. I said I did. She went on to draw out the commonalities between our lives, meaning you and us, and many other things. Then through the remaining forty five minutes I traced back again our lives and came about to write this letter to you.

‘This is a woman who has just put to bed her book-buying day’. My woman still goes weak in the knee seeing a bookstore and once she’s inside, one can only imagine her excitement. T asks for books on her birthday, over diamonds or platinum, and I am sure not complaining either. Now that her Birthday is nearing I’ll have to put on my thinking cap and choose one for her. But I am sure I can always fall back on your list of books for help.

We try reading a lot of books, not as a definite number but as compared to our contemporaries, who are busy on twitter and FB. And more often we feel good about the story and the characters but rarely we feel the connection with the author or his/her life. The first thing T mentioned about was the amount of references you of have given in the book, which we have not found in any book we read have so far, but understand the need for it because as a PhD scholar she strives for references. And while I was reading your book I made a mental note of picking up a few books mentioned in it and then realize my joy when in the end I saw the ‘recommended reading’ page. I am sure we would add a lot of them to our collection.

'Of a woman sitting on a bench in a tucked-away corner of the garden reading a book. Behind her is a sun-washed old brick wall on which creepers in bloom trail……’. I can imagine T here in perfect bliss. There are two pieces of cup cakes next to her and on the other side is our dachshund resting, with her snout hanging from the edge, over her front paws and in peace with the world. Looking into the horizon T reflects on the three things she always held dear to her heart: books, cakes and dogs.

If we move away from books the next thing that catches my attention is food, as a commonality between you and T. ‘Rather like the miscellaneous bookshelf in the study, our interests are diverse. But nothing fosters our togetherness as much as food’. Aptly said. T creates, experiments, re-creates, enjoys and sulks with food. Her association with food started at an early age, when as the elder daughter, she was assigned the reign of the kitchen as a chore. So if it’s not a book in her hand then it’s a spatula, which brings her most joy. So much so that she now has a blog on her cooking escapades - http://ooonuready.blogspot.com/. And what would come naturally is to serve it up to guests, as you fittingly said, ‘Of throwing open the double doors of my home with a flourish. Welcome, welcome, I would say to my guests as they troop into my formal and elaborate sit-down dinner’.

‘Fathers admitting to failing courage were a definite no-no. Fathers wanting to lean on adult daughters were not in my scheme of things either’. I experienced this myself recently, though not as a daughter. Actually we don’t have a daughter in our family and we contemplate how things would have been different if we had one. My parents relocated to our ancestral place in Kerala recently and I heard it from my father, “I am too old for all the paper work, all the packing, the bookings etc. It’s too much for me”. The image, of him being a martinet, came crashing down with this admission of his and our Noah, who in his age would have carried the weight of the entire planet, was looking for help. Fathers are resolute creatures and would never admit that they need a helping hand until they really need it and I wonder how they arrive at that decision. You very aptly shared Oscar Wild’s thought - ‘Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever they forgive them…..’ And as you said, ‘When it comes to our parents, especially fathers, I think even the most free-spirited amongst us turn into arch conservatives’. I think I can only reflect on this statement and I can’t agree with you more.

'And I would tell myself I am so lucky to have a mother with a sense of fun. She taught me all that she knew and then left me alone to make my own discoveries. I owe her so much, I tell myself. She didn’t blinker my mind or veil my thoughts. But after the first twenty four hours, we are at each other’s throats’. I would not be able to add much to this from a son’s perspective but I am sure T would agree to your thoughts. Mine was a testosterone laden family and only after my marriage to T I could see the dynamics of a mother and daughter relationship. And when T narrates the stories of the past I get reminded what you wrote, ‘human mothers rarely allow their daughters to escape without complaint. I look back and identify this period as one of intense divergence. Temperamental incompatibilities and mutual resentment were now almost palpable.’ ‘A daughter’s struggle with her mother is what shapes her journey through childhood and makes her a woman’. Then I read this line and think that T would agree to it too, ‘My mother-in-law and I never had to share a home. I wonder how the poor soul would have tolerated it if like daughters everywhere, I too had mouthed the refrain – This is how we did it at my mother’s house. How would she have coped with the existence of this phantom woman - my mother – who dictated where to place the dustbin and how to set the table. It would have irritated even someone as gentle as my mother-in-law. And yet I would only have been unknowingly echoing my mother’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs. And demonstrating the truth of Oscar Wilde’s observation: All women become their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That is his.’

There is more that I can quote from your book and lot more that I and T can relate too. It was like looking into the mirror and see our lives reflect back, when we read your book. Unlike the constant struggle that we all go through to make our life seem as unique as possible, I am sure that there is certain warmth in finding lives that intertwined and the comfort in sharing the same events and thoughts in life. In which ever books we read we try to live the lives of the characters and relate to the story that it tells. But through yours we were able to live and relate to a certain part of ourselves and our own lives itself. ‘How well I recognize that feeling. Like they say in the movies, I know, I was there’.

Goodnight and God bless

1 comment:

The quirk said...

A pleasant surprise. It made my day.It also feels funny when someone you love tries summing you up in few words :)